|Strunk Garden, Petropolis|
|Stone mosaic in Parque Flamenco with the Pau d'Azucar|
|Roberto Burle Marx at the Sitio|
photo by Mert Hauck
When the family returned to Brazil, Roberto developed his skill at arranging flowers for events, and was asked to design gardens for residences. His first commission was to design a garden for a project of the eminent Brazilian architect Lucio Costa. But the availability of native plant material was sorely limited. After many years of searching for the ideal property in which to develop a new garden and nursery, he found his dream property in a valley some distance south of Rio near the small town of Guaratiba, a two hour trip at the time. There he restored the old house and chapel and began propagating plants collected on numerous expeditions in to the wilds of Brazil. Over the years he developed an extraordinary landscape climbing the hill and introduced hundreds of previously unused plants to the gardening trade.
|Philodendrons, Alocasias, and granite boulders covered in Bromeliads flank a pond at the Sitio|
|Agave flanked steps in the Sitio|
|Bromeliad Towers by the Visitors Center|
|Architectural lily pool with salvaged columns supporting epiphytic plants at the Sitio|
|Salvaged architectural pieces are composed to make a stunning wall draped in Bromeliads at the Sitio|
This wall was the primary inspiration for the one in my garden. I loved the way he mixed varying shapes and details to make a vertical mosaic. The wall is planted with a variety of Bromeliads.
A lovely chapel dating from the 17th Century forms one side of an area with trees draped in huge Staghorn Ferns. A connecting covered dining area is covered with blue and white Portuguese style tile painted by Burle Marx. Dried seedpod encrusted chandeliers hang overhead. Burle Marx would create lavish arrangements for parties, and sing to his guests with an operatic voice. From what I hear his parties were legendary.
|A curtain of water spills from the roof of the barbeque terrace at the Sitio|
Further up the hill is a beautifully crafted studio that was built near the end of his life of carved granite pieces from a dismantled old coffee mill. The studio has a comfortable apartment and a large airy gallery displaying some of his art works and project models. All around the building are beautifully composed masses of plants with colored foliage and bold textures.
A cobbled road winds down the hill providing access and being attractive at the same time. It curves in a way to provide vistas of the garden after crossing a ravine with a trickling creek. I have been to the garden 3 times as it is something of a pilgrimage to visit this spectacular place. There is an affordable mini bus that makes the journey back and forth from Ipanema so that you don't have to go to the great expense of taking a taxi.
|Agaves spike a hill in the Sitio|
|Haruyoshi, Isabela Ono and I at the Burle Marx & CIA LTDA|
|Curvaceous beds backed by a forest of Araucarias in the Camargo Garden|
|A sweep of daylilies with the Game House in the distance in the Camargo Garden|
|Clumps of spiky foliage frame a series of steps in the Camargo Garden|
We visited magnificent private gardens not usually accessible to the public. The most famous is the Monteiro Garden, commissioned by his enlightened original client Odette Montiero, and later restored by Roberto for a new owner. It inhabits a spectacular valley in the granite loaf shaped mountains of Petropolis, a cool retreat from the sometimes oppressive heat of Rio. The narrow valley is a living painting of vibrant colors. Swaths of purple and pink flowering native Tibouchinas were in full bloom on both visits in early March.
|Tiboucina is bloom paint the hillsides at the Odette Montiero Garden|
|Undulating lines reflect the form of the mountains in the Montiero Garden|
|Painting with plants in the Montiero Garden|
|Red Iresine makes a bold form n the Strunk Garden|
Another incredible garden is the Strunk Residence, with a simple low slung transparent house designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Neimeyer who was responsible for the monumental architecture of the new capitol at Brasilia. The forms in the landscape play off of the curved roof on the simple rectangular house and the undulating jungle covered hills.
|Checkerboard lawn and Iresine around the pool in the Strunk Garden|
A lawn, planted in two colors of grass in a checkerboard pattern surrounds the rectangular swimming pool. An otherworldy sweep of red Iresine creates one of the most visually dramatic plantings I have ever seen on the other side of the house, leading to a voluptuously curvaceous pond.
|A view of the house designed by Oscar Neimeyer|
|A sinuous pond at the Strunk Garden|
Raul Martin's Garden, Petropolis
|Brick terrace with a Bromeliad tower over the Pool House|
The paving here features red brick, an unusual material for a Burle Marx garden. Terraces overlook dense jungle at various levels on the steep slope connected by wide steps. A terrace off the house forms the roof for the pool house below, which has blue and white tiled walls and comfortable furniture. The ordered architecture of the house and terraces blends wonderfully with the wild surroundings. What a pleasure to visit this garden!
|Pool terrace in the garden of Raul Martin|
|Raul Martin in the tiled pool house, with pillows designed by Burle Marx|
|Cascades in formed concrete spilling in to a rectangular pool at the garden of Raul Martin in Petropolis|
Garden of Meninho Magalhaes Lins, Rio de Janiero
|Lush terraces in the Meninho Magalhaes Lins Garden|
|Sinuous lawn and a stream fed swimming pool in the Meninho Magalhaes Lin Garden, Rio|
|Abstract Parterre at the Casa Moreira Salles, Gavea|
|Courtyard in the Casa Moreira Salles|
Beyond the breezeway is a swimming pool with a sleek white pool house and a pond backed by a tiled wall with a famous mural designed by Burle Marx. Heliconias, daylilies, and grasses fill the island beds, and there is a popular cafe with tables to sit and enjoy this part of the garden over lunch or tea. A beautiful cluster of Pau Mullato, or Calycophyllum spruceanum trees, with dark, polished skin like trunks is perfectly placed in one of the rectangular beds. I first noticed these handsome trees in the nearby Jardim Botanico planted in alleys along straight paths. There are so many wonderful plants native to Brazil.
|Pool and tiled wall at Casa Moreira Salles, Gavea|
Ohe of the largest of Burle Marx numerous public projects was the enormous land reclamation of Parque do Flamengo in Rio, a huge landfill created when the Sao Antonio hill was leveled in 1965. The project consumed a great deal of his energy and was at times surrounded by controversy. He was the primary supplier of many of the plants because his nursery was the only available source for many of the species. Most notable in the garden are wonderful groupings of unusual trees. The park contains an array of activity and sports areas designed with innovative forms to create a modernistic cohesiveness. The designer was greatly dismayed by the later addition of towering light poles that rise high above the trees.
At the center of the park is a sprawling modernist Monumento Nacional dos Mortos da II Guerra Mundial, a monument to soldiers who fought in World War II. Huge swaths of purple Tradescantia and yellow daylilies play off the dramatic architecture of the building.
|World War II monument in Flamengo Park, Rio|
At the downtown end of the park is the Airport terminal like Museu de Arte Moderno. Around the angular building are interesting gardens, with large areas of round stone mulches and sculptural plants. There is a lawn with the wave pattern done in two shades of grass called the Gramado de Ondas, or wave lawn. Next to this is the Jardim Geometrico, a garden patterned on rectangular forms with massive sculptural blocks of granite. Purple ajuga and other ground covers fill rectangular blocks of color under a canopy of Plumeria trees.
|Gramado de Ondas, Parque do Flamengo|
|Museu de Arte Moderno in Parque do Flamengo|
The famous Copacabana waterfront with its long wave patterned mosaic sidewalk is perhaps the most renowned work by Burle Marx. The beach once fronted the buildings along the shore, but was actually moved to make room for the new Avenida Atlantica and large underground parking lots. The wide sidewalk adjacent to the Avenida is paved with the classic wave pattern that was originally used in Lisbon Portugal for pavements when rebuilding parts of the city destroyed by a massive tsunami in 1755. The sidewalk is 2.5 kilometers long and is one of the largest mosaics in the World. The design perfectly frames the famed arc of sand backed by the Pau d' Azucar. Traffic islands have abstract organic mosaic patterns laid in the Portuguese style to contrast the continuous wave pattern of the main sidewalk. The whole design can be taken in from high up in the many thousands of apartments and hotel rooms that line the beach. The walk makes a classic promenade and is lined with kiosks serving food and caipirinhas. Every New Years over a million people dressed in white gather on the beach in Copacabana to throw white flowers and offerings in to the sea to honor the Orisha Goddess of the sea Yemanja. The fireworks at midnight are incredible, with 3 barges launching rockets over the water. It is one spectacular party, and Rio parties like no other city on Earth.
|Sidewalk on Avenida Atlantica in Copacabana|
|Mosaic sidewalk in Botafogo, Rio|
Burle Marx also designed the gardens surrounding the buildings at Brasilia, which I haven't visited. These public gardens are not always as well maintained as one would hope, but the vision is still there. The beautiful massing of trees in groves, the wildly curvaceous paths, the large riverstone mulches, architectural ponds, and the modernist mosaic patterns done in the Portuguese style using small hand cut limestone blocks are signiture to his work.
Outside of Rio I visited Burle Marx projects in Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo. A favorite small garden are the dramatic plantings at the Banco Safra in Sao Paulo. Here, patterned sidewalks play off the of the cantelivered architecture of the building. Carefully pruned trees and giant Vriesea Bromeliads bring the building in to scale and provide lush respite from busy Avenida Paulista.
|Banco Safra, Sao Paulo|
|Parque Burle Marx in Sao Paulo|
|Checkerboard Lawn, Parque Burle Marx, Sao Paulo|
|Rectangular planting beds and pools contrast with lush plantings in the Parque Burle Marx in Sao Paulo|
|The bed where Roberto Burle Marx passed away at the Sitio|
Roberto Burle Marx died of stomach cancer in June of 1994 at the age of 85. His legacy is far too great to cover in one article, but he single handedly brought the use of native Brazilian flora in to vogue, and created a style that is unique and often emulated to this day. The Landscape design world would not be what it is today without him.
Thanks for reading, Jeffrey